Santos reap golden harvest
What a year it has been for Santos Laguna. The 2007/08 campaign will live long in the memory of Torreon outfit after they followed up first place in the Apertura 2007 regular-season standings by taking the Clausura 2008 crown. And Santos were also the biggest winners at the Mexican Football Association's (FMF) annual awards ceremony, which celebrates the year's most outstanding performers.
Luduena leads the way
Of the nine awards presented to the Blanquiverdes at Monday's prestigious ceremony, three went to the Argentinian Daniel Luduena. The former River Plate man was voted the Best Player in the Apertura 2007 competition, as well as taking the awards for Best Attacking Midfielder at both the Apertura 2007 and Clausura 2008. Meanwhile, team-mate Ivan Estrada took the honours for best full-back in the Apertura 2007, and Santos were handed another statuette for being the tournament's superlíder (first place in the regular-season standings).
And their Clausura haul was even greater. Winning the championship-deciding Liguilla earned the club a Golden Ball; Estrada's fellow full-back Edgar Castillo was voted the best in his position; defensive lynchpin Fernando Ortiz took the Best Central Defender statuette; Luduena was again the Best Attacking Midfielder, while Ecuadorian star Christian Benitez was the Clausura 2008 Best Player.
Of course, the night was not just about Santos. Atlante, the Apertura 2007 champions, brought home five awards for that outstanding campaign. Coach Jose Guadalupe Cruz, physical trainer Roman Barron, centre-back Javier Munoz Mustafa and goalkeeper and fans' favourite Federico Vilar all came out on top in their respective categories.
The country's most popular club Guadalajara, meanwhile, came away with three statuettes, all won for their Clausura 2008 displays. One went to coach Efrain Flores, another to shot-stopper Luis Michel, and Las Chivas were awarded another for finishing as the Clausura superlíder. Pumas UNAM, for their part, chipped in with two prizes. Leandro Augusto took Best Defensive Midfielder for the Apertura 2007, while Pablito Barrera was voted the Best Newcomer for the Clausura 2008.
For big-spending America, who endured a campaign to forget, Paraguayan hitman Salvador Cabanas salvaged some pride with the Best Forward award for the Clausura. His fellow Águilas front-man Alfredo Moreno was also among the winners, taking the Apertura award for his striking feats at previous club San Luis. Special mention should be made of the rapid rise of Puebla's Jorge Zamolginy, who has gone from amateur football to being voted the Clausura 2008's Best Defensive Midfielder in the space of four years.
Other worthy winners included Armando Archundia, who took both available awards for Best Referee, while Rita Moreno lifted the trophy for Best Referee's Assistant in the Clausura 2008, in the process becoming the first woman to collect a FMF Golden Ball. The assistants' award for the Apertura went to Jose Luis Camargo.
Humberto Suazo and Alfredo Moreno took home the two available top scorers' awards, while Luis Bongiovanni and the aforementioned Roman Barron clinched the Best Physical Trainers' prizes. In the ceremony's Fair Play category, Guadalajara keeper Luis Michel and San Luis' veteran midfield man Braulio Luna came out on top.
Last but not least were the honorary awards, with former Mexico coach Don Nacho Trelles receiving a Platinum Ball. The 91-year-old strategist, who coached the senior national team for a record 106 matches, remains involved in the game at Cruz Azul. Another whose life's work was recognized with a Platinum Ball was Carlos Trapaga, one of Mexico's most respected journalists, who sadly passed away just hours before Monday's gala.